Two marriage questions

  1. What’s the purpose of marriage in danger of death?

There are specific norms in canon law to relax the formal requirements in danger of death, so not only are such marriages not excluded, they’re even expressly provided for.

On the other hand, marriage is for this life, it doesn’t continue in the next. Death dissolves it.

Is it only symbolic or for things like legitimatising any bastard children with the subsequent marriage, regulating property and inheritance? Or is there more to it?

  1. What happens with the sacrament in a non-consummated marriage that gets dissolved?

Marriage is sacramental already before consummation. If the marriage is dissolved without consummation having taken place, does that undo or terminate the sacrament? As it doesn’t seem to my theologically ignorant self that the sacrament is conditional on consummation to take place later.


Danger of death includes not only imminent death but also situations which are life threatening and the person’s survival or death is equally probable-- for example going into combat, an illness, major surgery, etc.


Yeah, but that means the wedding can be put off until one’s back. It clearly isn’t about surviving, it’s a race against death.


No. It means the law allows latitude to dispense and proceed.

You are trying to apply your own definition to the law.

Above I am relaying what the law is and what the Church means by danger of death. It does not mean “a race against death.” Danger of death includes the items I have listed such as a soldier leaving for combat.

That is how the Church applies this particular law.


I know what the law is. You are actually narrowing it down to just one of the many possible hypotheticals. Deathbed marriages are performed. I just want to know the theological purpose behind them.


Actually, ‘at the point of death’ is the narrow example of what ‘in danger of death’ covers.

What’s the purpose? Same as any other Christian marriage - it images Christ’s love for the Church and it gives witness to God’s plan for humanity…


I’d imagine that in real life, most death bed marriages are done for legal reasons more than for spiritual ones. If there’s an inheritance involved—or child custody issues-or in the case of a serviceman who has a life insurance policy that would go to a spouse if he dies, well, I can see the point of a last minute marriage. Otherwise, I guess I agree with you–what would be the point and why bother at all? I’m sure the church would allow such–but what would be the real point other than to put final dots on “i’s” and cross all “t’s” here on earth?


No, I am not narrowing it down, you are. “At the point of death” is a very narrow interpretation of “danger of death” and it is not what the Church means or intends with these canons on dispensation.



Interesting questions.

#1 People who are free to marry have a right to marry. There may be many reasons why a certain couple wants to marry at a particular time but that doesn’t really matter. All that matters is that they can marry and want to marry. A danger of death (whether death is imminent or not) should result in the Church, respecting the right to marry, willing to make marriage as easy and prompt as possible. Just because a marriage may be brief is no reason to not let it happen. As far as the purpose of a marriage that may not last very long, due to death–the purposes are necessarily the same as any other marriage. I don’t know how else to answer that question.

#2 As for the dissolution of a Sacramental marriage–yes, the Sacrament existed and then it ends at the moment of dissolution. The same is true if death is what dissolves the marriage (whether consummated or not). This, however, is a question that goes beyond what I have a little competence in (canon law) into sacramental theology…



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